Students explore business ideas

Sam Banks

Six students will be competing on Thursday, April 4 for a chance to start a small business with $9,000 in prize money from NMU’s School of Business New Business Venture Competition.

The competition is designed to promote entrepreneurship by giving students an opportunity to start a new business and apply classroom experience to the real world, according to Jody Lindberg, the coordinator of the event.  She is also the assistant dean at NMU’s College of Business.

Finalists Lauren Lund, Anthony Plemmons, Sage Henning, Keegan Hitz and team of Matthew and Amanda Yadro are competing for the top prize of $4,000 to start their business. According to Lindberg, the participants are coming from many different disciplines on campus.

Lund, a freshman, entered the competition hoping to help support her grandparent’s orphanage in Nepal by selling headbands she creates from used fabrics.

“I’ve never taken a business class in my entire life,” Lund said “I don’t know anything about business; I just want to raise money for the kids.”

First, the students had to submit a business proposal along with a letter of intent that was screened by a faculty/staff committee. Out of the proposals received, seven were picked as finalists. Six now remain, according to Lindberg.

She added that after being selected to continue, the finalists had to submit a 20-page business plan and participate in various activities such as a trade fair where they will display prototypes of their products and information guides.

They will also make a 60 second pitch to the judges to propose their business persuasively in order to get financial backing. Finally, they will make a 20 minute presentation to the judges on their business.

Plemmons, an MBA student who has a business proposal for a health café called the Protein Palace, said it was difficult to juggle classes and his other responsibilities with the amount of work that he needed to put into the competition.

“It seems like it would be super simple but when you have classes you have to remember this is something that is an extracurricular,” Plemmons said. “It was challenging because I had to keep pushing it back. But as I got more time, I was able to focus more on it.”

Plemmons spent time researching his intended industry by looking at an industry analysis, studying Marquette’s demographics and sizing up his competition to try to estimate his sales.

The six finalists will speak to six panelists, who are all experienced in the field of business.On the panel this year are Gina Thorsen, who is the vice president of marketing and sales at Stormy Kromer; Mike Skytta, who is involved with business development at Northern Michigan Bank; and Terry Dehring, owner of Quick Trophy.

“We get a variety of judges from different aspects of business so that they can critique a certain area,” Lindberg said. “Also because they are all high in their field they can give an overall perspective of the business plan and different parts of the competition.”

Also on the panel is Rich Tegge, president of the Wealth Strategy Group; Bob Jacquart, CEO of Jacquart Fabric Products; and Mark Kolesar, president of Mitchell Land and Kolesar Aviation.

“A lot of different degrees require some kind of business background,” Lindberg said. “If you want to be a chef and open your own restaurant, there’s still that management aspect. We’re encouraging that knowledge throughout the campus.”